Are flat shoes a sign you’ve let yourself go?

Do flat shoes say "I've let myself go"?
Do flat shoes say "I've let myself go"? Photo: Jerome Domine/ABACAPRESS.COM

At some point following the birth of my first child, and my return to full-time work, I woke up, got dressed, evaluated what I was wearing in the long mirror in my bedroom, and wondered;

“Have I let myself go?”

I was wearing flat shoes. Flat shoes, pants, hair swept back in a ponytail. Barely any makeup. Flat shoes.

Are flat shoes a sign you’ve let yourself go?
Are flat shoes a sign you’ve let yourself go? Photo: Fairfax Media

Flat. Shoes.

Are flat shoes a sign you’ve let yourself go?

Pre-baby, pre-marriage, pre-"settling-down”, I would wear flat shoes to the office approximately no times a week. This is partly because I enjoyed wearing high heels, partly because I had a job in television where high-heels on women were kind of an unspoken rule, and partly because I thought high-heels made my legs look sexy.

I can’t imagine what it’s like to be a cisgender fella who’s probably never considered the sexifying effect a pair of shoes would have on his legs. I can tell you cisgender women, and same-sex attracted women, do think about it. Heterosexual women probably more so. It’s hard not to.

Women are encouraged to think about their sexiness often. And high-heels are a big part of that. High-heels are sex-symbols. So is the absence of high-heels symbolic of sexlessness?

I can’t help but turn to the pages of fashion magazines. As Right Said Fred said, the fashion industry has traded on sex forever. Nothing tastes as good as being too sexy feels.


Yet when I look at modern fashion spreads, I notice something. Not only are we starting to see more diversity, more curves among the spindly, white legs and arms, we're also starting to see flat shoes.

Flat shoes on catwalks, flat shoes in front rows, flat shoes in campaigns. Shapely calves, attractive ankles, ending in flat shoes.

Sexy women in fashion magazines are wearing flat shoes, and not just any kind; some are wearing sneakers. This is a wonderful thing. Even Kim Kardashian wears flats (albeit begrudgingly).

Katherine Feeney
Katherine Feeney Photo: Supplied

And yet, when I broach the subject with friends, with people I know, when I ask, “are flat shoes a sign you’ve let yourself go,” some say, “yes”.

What do they mean? What is “letting yourself go” all about? And is it something that only applies to women?

“Oh, she’s let herself go.” “Oh, he’s really let himself go.” “Oh, they’ve really let themselves go.” You hear this all the time. At high school reunions, in lounge rooms in front of the television during those diet shows, and in workplaces when people are bored and someone comes back from parental leave, people accuse people of ‘letting themselves go’ all the time.

Now, you and I both know that judging a book by the cover is wrong. But if you’re really honest with yourself, can you say that you don’t do it? Can you say you don’t judge others because of how they appear to be? Moreover, can you say that you don’t judge yourself? Like I did, that morning, when I evaluated my reflection in my bedroom mirror and wondered whether I’d “let myself go”.

What I meant was, “have I given up on valuing my appearance because I am married with a kid and don’t see the point in being sexy?”

Letting go, except in the context of the wild climactic throes of passion, is often not desirable. Letting go, taken literally, implies falling. You might let go of something, drop something, and you might see it smash to bits on the floor beneath your feet. Letting go, taken figuratively, also means dropping; dropping your standards, dropping your guard, dropping everything. If you’ve let yourself go, you’ve stopped caring about keeping healthy, smelling weird, looking good, or giving a crap.

Well might you try to couch it in terms of liberation from the narrow restrictions of a beauty-obsessed culture. But the reality is, if you really have let yourself go, you’re probably past giving enough fecks to mount a genuine revolution. You’ll probably settle for home-delivery and a milk straight from the carton instead. Which is great irregularly speaking, but every, single day. That’s not happiness. Happiness is caring, about the things that matter.

I care. I still care about myself. I care about my marriage. I care about my daughter and setting a good model for her to follow, as a woman, and a human to boot.

Sure, I’d like to care less about the rubbish that you spend your teens and twenties worrying about. In my thirties, I feel like I’m getting there, and I’m less concerned with the Joneses.

I accept age is coming. I get that hangovers last for days. I love that I don’t mind wearing flat shoes if they are comfortable and make me feel good. I love wearing high heels when I choose to, not because I have to. I love that my husband loves this too.

So, have I let myself go?


Have you?

Katherine Feeney is a journalist and presenter with ABC Radio Brisbane. You can find her on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, or her website